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Remarque’s Use of Literary Devices in All Quiet on The Western Front

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All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque takes you through a voyage of war. As you read you are seeing the events through the perspective of a youthful German soldier. Utilizing imagery, purposeful anecdote, and exceptional symbolism the readers can be completely emerised and experience the disasters war causes, be it physically or rationally.

While in school all the boys were told how honorable it was to join the army, so they did exactly that and were enlisted into World War I. In chapter 5 there is a quote that helps the reader understand how the boys felt about being uneducated to the realities to the war. “At school, nobody ever taught us…that it is best to stick a bayonet in the belly because it doesn’t get jammed, as it does in the ribs.” (Remarque pg. 85). Understanding this quote is to understand that the boys were never taught to prepare for these types of situations and circumstances, and had never been talked to about these aspects of war. Getting further into the novel it starts to show the emotional and mental effects on the young soldiers.

The book has the use of literary devices to emphasize that the soldiers way of thinking has been altered by the war. In the beginning of the book Paul and his comrades come back from the front and ask for extra rations as eighty men had died. This is the use of irony as most would not think to ask for extra food when eighty lives had been taken right before you, and your comrades no less, but the war changes the way you think about yourself and others. You think more about your survival than the ones already lost. Another use of a literary device is a metaphor, a metaphor can be read on page 113. Paul says “we have become wild beasts.” (Remarque pg. 113). This gives an insight to how the soldiers feel, they will do anything to survive no matter how desperate it is, they live by survival of the fittest like animals in the wild. This goes hand in hand with my statement about irony showing the emotional and mental effects.

Like most books this one has many subplots to advance the larger themes in the book. Paul becoming a war machine in order to cope with being in the war is a big element to the story. Paul begins to learn how to maneuver through bullets, bombs, and enemies, with an unnatural ease. But to pay the price for that he loses his feelings of humanity, he becomes what the war wants him to be, just another killing machine in the long list of other machines. He begins to see his “home” as the front, where he sees hundreds of deaths occur, instead of the home where his family is. This kind of thing can be described as an element of plot because it’s advancing Paul’s realization that the war is meaningless and that he will die, his friends will die, and the Germans will lose. Another thing that can be used as an element of plot is Kat dying right on Pauls back. While carrying Kat to the makeshift hospital his head is sliced by a piece of shrapnel, once again another friend dies and another shred of will to go on has died along with him. Paul reflects on his time in battle and comes to the conclusion that he will never be at peace, all he knows is war. Although the book comes through with irony once again and says that when Paul is killed, “he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.” It’s quite sad, but he seems to have found solace in knowing death had come.

This novel is set before any of us could have lived, and in WWI no less, so it is hard to relate in aspects of war. But people are people and we all share the same emotions, so regardless of time period it is easier to connect to the emotional side of the book. “We have lost all sense of other considerations, because they are artificial. Only the facts are real and important to us.” (Remarque pg. 21). Many people can connect to a sentence like this, having gone through life and having your expectations and ideas shattered again and again can make you see things for what they are instead of what you want them to be. After living your experiences you can only start to appreciate the facts, and loathe the unknown. I for one, can connect to this from getting the same outcome out of a situation I want to end differently. In the book this quote is related to Paul looking back to when they first enlisted, they were young and innocent. At the end of training the youth and innocence had been taken right from them, and they couldn’t expect anything else but the harsh reality of war.

All Quiet on the Western Front is a shockingly emotionally in depth book about the effects of war. The literary devices, elements of plot, and the connections you can make to yourself give the book an extra ounce of relatability despite the fact it is set in WWI. The human mind and heart share the same thoughts and emotions that can be conveyed through writing. This novel does that job immaculately, and though it’s been decades the book can still make people feel something, I’m sure it will be able to do that for many decades to come.   

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Remarque’s Use Of Literary Devices In All Quiet On The Western Front. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
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